These are dark days for New England Patriots fans.
On Sunday, the Patriots lost at home to the Washington Commanders, the team that traded away two of its best defensive players last week and came into Gillette Stadium allowing over 28 points per game through the first half of the season.
New England mustered only 17, done in by the same mistakes that have shockingly become familiar for this club: mental errors, sloppy penalties and a game-ending turnover.
For all of the things you could say about a Bill Belichick-coached team over the years, the one thing you could never say is that it beat itself with dumb mistakes and penalties at the worst time; that was usually part of the opponent's undoing.
That is, you could never say it until this year.
The Patriots are 2-7, the worst record in the AFC. Looking ahead at the remainder of their schedule, it's hard to believe any remaining game is a definite win for them, except possibly their road game with the Giants at the end of this month. You have to go all the way back to 1992 to find a New England team that posted four or fewer wins, and at least that 2-14 season got them Drew Bledsoe in the next year's draft.
I say make him stay. As the overlord of all things Patriots, this mess is entirely of his doing. Let him stew in it. Belichick has been unbending during his lengthy tenure, whether giving no quarter to players for being late in a heavy snowstorm to clearly running up the score against coaches he doesn't like to blatant disrespect of media who are just trying to do their jobs and inform their respective audiences.
I know that may not be what many want to hear, but it's not fair for Jerod Mayo or Bill O'Brien to have to serve as interim head coach for the rest of this season, whether that's the final seven games of this season (New England plays the Colts in Germany this weekend and then has its bye) or the final two. They didn't build this team, coaching staff and front office. They didn't draft Mac Jones or refuse to pay receiver Jakobi Meyers. They aren't the ones benching starting cornerbacks without explanation or saying a receiver had his best week of practice and then making him a healthy scratch for the game. They aren't the ones manhandling microphones and mumbling non-answers after losses, refusing to say anything except some version of "we weren't good enough" or "I'm just getting ready for [insert next opponent here]."
Team president Jonathan Kraft, sitting with his father Robert in the owner's box on Sunday, was caught on camera appearing to say just that with five minutes gone in the third quarter. Everyone can see that the Patriots aren't good enough.
But Belichick is the one who put together this unsavory stew.
For better or worse, his behavior hasn't changed over these decades, but it's a lot easier for the fan base to deal with and ownership to accept when the team is winning. When he's not, the light is shined on the boorish behavior and doesn't reflect well on the organization. And that media he has treated so poorly? They're not lining up to defend him.
It isn't just that Belichick should have to ride out the rest of this miserable season rather than be given a November out and big paydays to luxuriate at his Nantucket compound or South Florida residence. Love him or loathe him, he did oversee an unprecedented run of on-field success for a franchise that not so long ago was a perennial also-ran.
We can debate now how much of the Patriots' success was due to Tom Brady and how much was due to Belichick (the scale seems to be tipping heavily in Brady's favor these days), but it was his Super Bowl XXXVI game plan that slowed down the Greatest Show on Turf for the Patriots' first championship, and he who outsmarted baby-faced offensive guru Sean McVay 16 years later for their sixth.
Despite the house crumbling, if this is his final season, Belichick should be celebrated by the fan base on his way out. No one could have predicted 23 years ago when Robert Kraft traded for him that Belichick would be head coach for so long and have so many wins.
When they say farewell, though, they should make sure he takes his mess with him so the Patriots can start cleaning up for the next coach.